“A real chilling effect”: a left-wing scholar abandons CAP – For AEI
How Teixeira came to talk about the essentials of class politics while sitting just feet away from a pile of Lynne Cheney books speaks volumes about the state of the American left, where the scholar of 70-year-old felt alienated — and on the American right, where a once-dominant think tank that opposed Trump hardliners brought him on board.
To hear Teixeira tell it, the CAP and the rest of Washington’s institutional left ceased to be a place where he could do whatever job he wanted. The reason, he says, is that the focus on race, gender and identity in historically liberal foundations and think tanks has made it difficult to work that looks at society through other lenses. It also makes people nervous about projects that could be accused of neglecting anti-racism efforts.
“I would say anyone who has a fundamentally class-based perspective, who thinks that’s a more important lens and doesn’t assume that any disparity is automatically a lens of racism or sexism or whatever…I think that perspective is not pleasant in most left-wing institutions,” he says.
Teixeira’s bill will be familiar to many who have followed the left’s internal battles over the past half-decade, or spent an afternoon on left-wing Twitter. Politically, as a strategist, he believes Democrats must win over culturally moderate voters if they are ever going to create the kind of coalition that can get their policies passed. And personally, as an employee, he’s not too fond of the institutional dynamic that he says is driven by younger employees but embraced by superiors afraid of a public outburst.
“I would say they were affected by the nature, inclination and preferences of their junior staff,” he says. “It’s just that at CAP, like almost every other left-wing think tank you can think of, it’s become very difficult to have a conversation about race, gender and trans issues, even crime and immigration. You know, ‘How should the left handle this?’ There’s a default assumption about how you’re supposed to speak about these things, even the language. There’s a real chilling effect on all of these organizations, and I think it’s had an effect on CAP as well.
Like many older, whiter veterans of liberal think tanks and foundations, he also says he is exhausted by the internal agita. “It’s just cloudy cuckoo land,” he says. “The fact that no one wants to talk bullshit scares me.”
The CAP people say they are mystified by Teixeira’s decision. “I’m convinced he’s unable to articulate a single example when his research or his thought leadership met with resistance in the organization,” Patrick Gaspard, who took over the center last year, tells me. Gaspard says he encouraged Teixeira to raise his issues. “If you go there, you will find me applauding your questions,” he told Teixeira. “In my conversations with him, I encouraged him to continue to be counterintuitive.”
As for the broader question of the priorities of progressive organizations, Gaspard also pushes back: “We’re only going to reverse the pull for illiberal autocrats if we don’t focus with laser intensity on issues of economic inclusion and creation of widespread prosperity”. ,” he says. “There is enthusiasm in our ranks for the kind of pluralistic conversations we are able to have every day about the economy.”
Unlike some of the other conflicts in the now voluminous canon of older standards against young graduates, Teixeira’s does not involve claims of being snubbed or censured or rescinded or slandered. Along with a group of collaborators — including another CAP fellow who maintains paid employment — he posted his denunciations against alleged cultural radicalism and petrified progressive institutions on a sub-pile called The liberal patriot. No one slipped nasty notes under their door.
But, he says, the way projects work in the world of think tanks means that when an institution doesn’t embrace a researcher’s interests and ideas, life becomes more difficult. He once tried to start something called the Bobby Kennedy Project, which would look for ways to appeal to the black and white working class together. He didn’t go anywhere.
“People kind of tolerated the idea at CAP, but nobody wanted to push it,” he says. “We had conversations with people in and around the foundation world and no one wanted to touch it. You might say. People were wary of talking about the white working class, as if it was de facto racist…You you’re supposed to do things that are funded, and you can’t get things funded if the institution isn’t behind you.
Generational and ideological dynamics may be classic 2022 stuff, but there’s still something particularly ironic about Teixeira, of all people, feeling pressured into giving up by identity politics. The Emerging Democratic Majority, his 2002 book with John Judis, is often cited as predicting the coalition of college graduates and minority voters that brought Barack Obama to power. Whenever you hear someone on the left say that the path to victory involves expanding the electorate with young and diverse voters, they are part of his bloodline.
Teixeira, for the record, says it’s a massive misinterpretation of the book, which predicted a government majority based on the assumption that Democrats could hold a good proportion of white-collar blue collar workers, as happened in 2008. But Obama’s first victory turned out to be a high point, not a new era. Teixeira is in the camp that blames ‘cultural radicalism’ for the failure, saying noise around things like pronouns and police funding has caused many blue-collar voters to see the party as a bunch of recent college graduates. boring liberal arts.
Incidentally, that last blame is highly debatable: Teixeira’s critics say the obsession with woke youth allows the current president — who no one will ever mistake for a bullying undergraduate — to escape political failures. (The question is also the subject of the next book by Teixeira and Judis, Where Have All The Democrats Gone?)
Whether it’s Teixeira’s fault for being too sensitive to “this endless talk about fairness, anti-racism, etc. or CAP’s fault for frustrating an eccentric southpaw so much that he stole the co-op, it’s undoubtedly a sad thing for liberalism that a top notch institution no longer feels like home to the guys.
On the other side of the ideological spectrum of the nerd realm, Teixeira’s job dissatisfaction was music to the ears of Robert Doar, president of AEI. The think tank, which wielded unprecedented influence during the George W. Bush years, became a safe space for anti-Trump conservatives, which presented a branding problem at a time of continued support for the former president remains the dominant mode of the GOP. .
One solution: Bring in a group of fellows who have encountered institutional shibboleths elsewhere, hires that allow AEI to make a virtue of its heterodoxy while tweaking the (often liberal) institutions where newcomers had previously worked – something something likely to appeal to donors.
Recent additions include former Princeton classics professor Joshua Katz, who was removed from his post and fired this year for a longtime sexual relationship with an undergraduate student. Chris Stirewalt, the Fox News analyst who infuriated Trump by calling Arizona for Joe Biden and then lost his job; Thomas Chatterton Williams, the cultural critic who penned the controversial 2020 “Harper’s Letter” criticizing alleged hostility to free speech on the left; and Klon Kitchen, a former member of the Heritage Foundation who published a scathing criticism of his former employer over his stance on Ukraine. They also attracted a few veterans of the historically liberal Brookings Institution.